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Greece to harden tackling illegal migrants

ATHENS, Greece, June 12 (UPI) -- Greece's interior minister said the government will impose longer prison sentences for human traffickers to tackle a growing problem of illegal immigrants.

Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said tougher measures should discourage smugglers and curb a rising number of migrants coming to Greece, Kathimerini reported online Friday.

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Pavlopoulos said the government will change a bill to charge human traffickers with felony offense that would carry stricter prison terms, instead of the current misdemeanor charges.

Addressing reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Athens Thursday, Pavlopouols said the government will set up reception centers to house illegal immigrants for up to 12 months until their future is solved.

Pavlopoulos said he will urge European Union officials in Brussels next week to sign repatriation agreements with the countries of migrants' origin. He pointed out Greece will press Turkey to respect a bilateral agreement on the return of immigrants to their own countries.

In a related move, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis asked the Czech rotating presidency of the European Union for support in tackling illegal immigrants arriving in Greece, Italy and Spain.

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